Day 2 – Venice (and the Italian Psyche)

“Though there are some disagreeable things in Venice, there is nothing so disagreeable as the visitors.” – Henry James

I disagree with Henry James.  As far as I can see, the most disagreeable thing  in Venice is the way the visitor is cynically taken advantage of at every turn. Visitors beware!

If you are a visitor to Venice and you have the peculiar feeling that you are being taken advantage of, there is only one possible explanation – you probably are! You only have to look at the prices in the shops. A water taxi into the city (15 to 20 mins) will set you back at least 50 Euros. The ‘service’ charge in many restaurants around the Piazza San Marco or the Rialto may be as much as 14.5% – for average to poor service. And it’s on the bill before your bottom touches the seat. If someone beckons you to enter or to follow for a ‘free’ demonstration, remember that your response should be ‘No!’ There’s no such thing as ‘free’ in Venice. If you are caught short in the city and can’t wait to return to your hotel to use the toilet you will be charged 1 Euro 50, but remember to put a peg on your nose before you use a public toilet. And today, as we looked for the correct jetty for the boat to Murano, Rachel made the mistake of asking an official which jetty to use. As she approached the woman along a gangway the woman (in full uniform) deliberately turned her back, spread her arms out at either side of her and bent over and stuck her bottom out towards Rachel in a ‘I’m not even going to talk to you’ kind of way. This is no exaggeration, I promise you. Undaunted, Rachel walked up, leaned over and around this woman’s barricade and asked her the question anyway. The woman merely barked  something back in Italian without even looking. A little later we saw another unfortunate tourist giving the woman hell after a similar encounter. If you forget to say ‘No’ when lured into a shop for a bargain and spend 50 Euros, don’t be surprised to find the same goods a hundred yards down the road for 15 Euros. This is a cynical and manipulative ploy to part you from your hard earned cash. Rude, aggressive and dishonest.

But, apart from that, Venice is a wonderful place!

Today we visited Murano, of glass blowing legend, The boat trip, once you have negotiated the above tribulations, is about 30 minutes duration and you get a good appreciation of  what lies around the central city – numerous islands,  the Lido and the lagoon itself. It’s a busy area, full of ships and boats of all shapes and sizes. Murano feels like an extension of the mainland itself and not the quaint little outpost we had imagined. We watched an interesting display of glass blowing, after which we were herded into the shop – don’t get me started again!

But the skill with which this man worked was quite special.

We wandered around Murano for a while before getting lunch. The narrow streets and canals have a wonderful dilapidated beauty.

While eating lunch at the side of a canal we saw an unusual sight. The photo below is of a DHL delivery man delivering numerous boxes throughout the town.

Glass is blown here on a very large scale. This next photo shows a glass sculpture, standing about 8 to 10 feet high, in one of the side streets in a residential area (I’ve just shown the detail here):

I must end today’s blog (or is it a rant today?) with another very peculiar and sad observation. We wandered into a lovely church building in Murano. It had some amazing art work on its walls, some beautiful sculpture, a peaceful and still place to get away from the heat and the crowds. And there, at the end of the room an enormous golden sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus. Around it were ornate carvings in marble. And at the bottom a slot machine for coins.  If you were to insert 2 Euros the whole spectacle would light up for 5 minutes only before plunging back into darkness. If ever there was an image or description of organised religion, this was it!

Tomorrow – Around the Islands (part 2).

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